Hey everyone, I wanted to share my experiences with you of using the tempo trainer for the first time to apply to longer sets. I realize longer is relative, but for me I’m talking about 500 yards. In some of my previous posts and training logs, I’ve talked about the value of stroke counting and setting a tempo. Here’s how that practiced helped me PR my 500 yd swim by over 25 seconds in 2 weeks. (hint: it’s not high volume swimming)

A few weeks ago while assisting at a clinic in FLA, Coach Shane Eversfield gave some ideas about how to use the tempo trainer to help in training for longer distances. The first step was: “Find a tempo at which you can comfortably swim a 500.”

There was more to his set, but at this point I’m still trying to nail down a “comfortable 500” with the tempo trainer. I know that I can swim 500, but I’d never done so with a tempo trainer and I was nervous what it might teach me about my (bad?) swimming habits.

The first time I tried it, I chose a setting of 1.3 seconds, which feels downright slow when I do 50s or even 100s, but I know that I can maintain good form at that pace.

After 250 yards, I gave up on the set! My stroke was getting sloppy, my SPL went from 16 to 20, my turns went form flip to open and I was “stealing” extra seconds at the wall just trying to figure out how to regain control. The issue was not one of a lack of fitness, but rather swimming at a coordinated, consistent effort for the duration at a set tempo. The remainder of that set I continued at the same TT setting, but did repeats of 100s & 50s, which went just fine.

The following week I attempted it again. My goal was still to complete the set. I managed to alternate flip & open turns for a few hundred yards, then went to all open. The turns were taking 3-5 beeps from initiation to completion (instead of the 3 I was striving for), and my stroke rate stayed between 16-18. It was a better set, and I finished having set a new PR for 500 yards at 8:50, which is 1:45/100.

I was thrilled, but knew that I was capable of swimming even better. With the metric of SPL, I knew that if I could keep my strokes consistent at 16 SPL, or improve my turns that I could easily take 20-30 seconds off the set. Never before had I understood swimming so well. Can you imagine just staring at the pace clock wondering how you could get faster for your next effort? There was no question about it…to get faster I simply need to swim more consistently and now I had objective measures to follow.

Yesterday was my 3rd such attempt at completing 500 yards with the tempo trainer, and I set a new PR for 500 of 1:40/100! I started at the same setting (1.3s) and started the set with 14-16 SPL (how did that happen???). I was hitting every wall around 15 SPL with a well timed flip turn & pushoff using exactly 3 beeps for the turn and taking my first stroke on the 4th beep without feeling breathless.

The consistency with which I was swimming shocked me! After 300 I knew this would be another PR, not because I was trying to swim faster…just trying to swim better, following a plan. The manager stopped me with 25 yards to go to tell me the swim team would be arriving soon, but even with that 3-5 second delay included, I finished the set in 8:25, for a new PR (for the 2nd time in 2 weeks). Subtacting the 3 seconds or so I stopped for the manager, that’s 1:40/100. No blazing fast, but faster than MOP.

My focuses were primarily on maintaining some core tension and rotating from the core with the aid of my (2 beat) kick. I think that’s how I got down to 14 SPL for the first few lengths.

I can’t tell you how enlightening this is for me. I’ve never had this much control of my swimming before. Funny thing is that 2 weeks ago I would have said the same thing, and 2 weeks prior to that I would have said the same thing. It just keeps getting better.

Just wanted to share, I hope you all can experience the same sorts of improvements not just in swimming, but in your approach to planning your training.

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